I have been in marketing for decades and am still surprised if not disappointed by the lack of a clear and succinct definition of branding and positioning expressed and articulated by most companies and organizations. Maybe I can offer one. It may be neither clear or distinct, and may engender severe disagreement, but hopefully I will get a conversation started.
My perspective, and one that I practice and preach, defines branding as ubiquity, where everyone knows you, and positioning where everyone wants you. Branding leads to awareness and visibility but not always sales. Branding without a value proposition, or position, is meaningless. Positioning, which is a succinct statement of a competitive differentiation that is both relevant and salient, is far more important as it has immediate benefits as well lasting impact.
Many times I hear about companies, particularly those that are new or relatively young, who state as their marketing objective the achievement of brand. Or worse, those who state that their marketing strategy for identifying customers and achieving sales is branding even though they are two years old and still pre-revenue.
This can be counterproductive for a couple of reasons. One, satisfying the objective will take so long that the company could go out of business before it can claim brand status. Two, branding is extremely expensive putting undue and unnecessary pressure on a marketing and organizational budget that cannot withstand that kind of financial commitment.
Consumers are far more savvy and informed, and skeptical, than ever. Considerable thought must be given to position and how the company fits into a market narrative—how it is communicated– where your company is the solution and the competitors are merely alternatives.
Branding itself can be difficult to measure and hard to monetize, and the costs are enormous and long term. Positioning leads to revenues and ultimately branding, and basically shortens the consumer journey from education to information to engagement.
Branding is basically “look at me.” Position is “you need me.”
Branding is all inclusive and a shotgun approach. Positioning is exclusive (only real customers need apply) and a rifle shot.
If you watch the Super Bowl this February, watch the commercials and see if you can tell who is attempting to create or reinforce a brand, and whose advertisement actually inspires you to buy their product. Who is merely saying look at me, and who actually provides a solution to a current problem?
Put another way, do Clydesdale horses make you want to buy Bud?
Thoughts and disagreements welcome and encouraged.